Fireworks, karaoke and dogmeat... Happy New Year!

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End Jul 05, 2011

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Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Sunday, January 2, 2011

The family piled into the car on Dec 30th for the six-hour trip up to the city of Atambua, where we spent the next few days celebrating the New Year with Nona's relatives.  On the way up we drove through countryside that has been transformed by weeks of rain: the rice fields are lush with new growth and the corn stalks have lost their wilted look.  We got into Atambua late and fell into bed as soon as the hugs and hellos had been exchanged.  Just as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard a cry of "hujon!" (rain!) from somewhere outside and, listening carefully, heard the patter on tin roofs growing louder and closer until finally the downpour hit our roof.  I dreamed of waterfalls.

Caution – the following paragraph comes with a disclaimer!  Read at your own risk…

The next morning, Ted’s boys came tearing into the house to find me, shouting that I was to come “see the dog.”  Taking into account my current location and the celebrations to come, I followed them outside a bit dubiously, with the sneaking suspicion that I wasn’t about to see something cute and cuddly.  I was right.  Dogmeat is a traditional food for special events and the men of the house were preparing for the feast.  Luckily, I came out too late to see them kill the poor beast, which only that morning had been running around the yard.  Apparently, it had been causing lots of problems, stealing food and biting the kids… but regardless of its many sins, it was still disturbing to see its blackened form, open-mouthed as if still snarling, tied to a pole in the yard.  As I watched, the men poured what must have been gasoline over the animal and it was engulfed in flames, to burn off the hair.  Soon, the dog was no more than red and black bits in a bowl, (sorry, but I did put a disclaimer at the top…) into which Nona’s sister Eni mixed spices for cooking later.  I kept thinking, “If this isn’t a National Geographic moment, I don’t know what is!”  It was a fascinating look into local culture.

After the New Year’s Eve feast (yes, I did try some dogmeat – it had a smoky flavor and was very chewy), the family gathered for a candle-lit time of prayer in the small open-air building housing the remains of Nona’s parents.  The elder members of the family took turns praying aloud and although I only understood a bit of what was said, I was moved by their fervent, sometimes tearful voices.  After the prayers and singing, everyone got up to throw freshly-cut flowers on the graves

Then the fireworks came out.  For the whole month of December, there’s been a light show every night, but New Year’s was especially stunning.  The horizon of night sky flared so frequently that it looked and sounded as though we were in the middle of a war zone.  Explosions of fireworks lasted from sundown, around 6:15pm, well into the wee hours of the morning, competing with the bombastic sound systems pumping out Indonesian dance tunes up and down our street.  My travel friend Eng and his young niece performed a song for me and presented me with a traditional woven cloth from their family village.   The men drank Bintang beer, the women danced under the orange tarp tent and the children raced around with noisemakers and sparklers.  What a way to ring in the New Year!

Back to Kupang the next day to pack and prepare for my trip to Cambodia.  It will be so hard to say goodbye to my new family here in Indonesia!
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Auntie Gopher on

Wow, what an exciting update?!? I love learning about cultural differences however I must say I prefer dogs soft and cuddly on my lap rather than on my plate!

What an amazing trip you are having, keep the updates coming! I love following your adventures :)

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